Making your CV stand out – a recruiter's view

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CV on a computer screen

Here at Success at School, we're proud to have a talented and experienced team, and we like to share some of that expertise with you.

Our employer account manager, Sharon Bertie, worked for 16 years picking the best candidates for some of the world's most famous banks. In today's blog, Sharon shares some tips on how to make your application stand out from the crowd...

First off, get the basics right! Your CV should be no more than two sides of A4, and presented in chronological order with your most recent experience first.

There are lots of very talented applicants out there – the trick is to make your CV and application stand out from the crowd, and the best way to do that is to start preparing your experience at school.

1. Learn a language

Languages are always sort after – but only put them on your CV if you have fluency in them, otherwise you might get caught out at interview when the questions get asked in that language!


There is a huge push in organisations to have their employees give back to the community through something called "CSR" (corporate social responsibility).

If you can show that you have given up your time to volunteer locally or in other countries, this will definitely make you more memorable and give the interviewer something to ask you about.

2. Be a leader

Being a team member is great, but being a team leader is fantastic! Do what you can to be captain, chairperson, founder, head in the groups you are involved in.

3. Do sport or find a hobby

While not everyone is sporty, those that are show that they have discipline, as well as the ability to collaborate and compete – something employers love, especially if you want to begin a career in business or finance.

Traders like high-achieving sports people. It shows passion, drive and risk – all things needed to be successful in this area.

You don't have to be a banker to benefit – showing you can work well with others will get you a big tick in virtually any area of work, as will demonstrating that you have a range of interests that you can get really stuck into and perform at your best.

Hobbies can be anything that you are crazy about – whether it's cooking, cycling, playing an instrument, or dancing. These things make you you, and hence unique.

4. Raise some money

This is a win-win whatever you do.

Raising money for a charity you care about not only helps them, it's also a great way to show employers that you care as well. Most employers want a caring workforce who'll look out for each other - and also look for employees who can help them to be a responsible company.

Challenges like climbing Kilimanjaro or trekking the Himalayas are mentally and physically gruelling, and show drive and determination. Even running a half marathon or a 10K for cancer research help raise funds and show that you're someone who cares about those less fortunate or in need.

5. Get some work experience

Whilst the opportunities to gain work experience might be limited when you're school, showing that you are reliable and capable in any environment is certainly useful.

If you're interested in a certain industry group – for example banking, law or retail – try to secure roles within those areas. Unpaid work experience, insight days, and anything else you can put on your CV shows that you've considered your options.

Everyone has worked in either a McDonald's, Pizza Hut, shoe shop or large retailer at weekends. Think how you can gain more responsibility from your peers that you can list on your CV.

Right – it's time to start boosting those skills and experience. Don't forget to check out our CV template so you can present all that expertise in a super-professional way!

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